Editing, directing and The Cool World: filmmaking as a choreographic art

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Given that cinema is a movement-based art form, this article proposes that a director’s work is more analogous to that of a choreographer than that of an author. From there, it considers others involved in choreographing a film’s movement and focusses on the film editor. The case study for revealing how directing and editing shape cinematic movement is The Cool World (1963), a radical and insufficiently recognised film directed and edited by Shirley Clarke. My analysis looks closely at a specific passage in the film to identify how its movement-phrases, as shaped in editing, convey or create experiences of community, space, and subtext – experiences that cannot be created on paper or even in shots until the shots are edited. Through this case study of a director-editor, I demonstrate that editing is a process of authoring the movement-phrases that move the spectator. Having considered editing as an intrinsic part of Clarke’s directorial agency, I conclude with brief consideration of the question: if we understand a film to be at least in part ‘authored’ in editing when the director and editor are one person, what happens when they are not?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalTextual Practice
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Aug 2021


  • Shirley Clarke
  • editing
  • editing as choreography
  • film directing
  • choreographic
  • director-editor
  • authorship
  • distributed cognition
  • collaboration
  • The Cool World
  • movement phrasing
  • film editing


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